Tuesday, 21 June 2011

16/365 Teaching = hated profession

My earliest impression as a child of a teacher was probably the like the one from The Waltons. Someone who sees their job as a vocation, as a way of making a difference in the world. Someone who is willing to work for a modest pay without claiming hours of over time but willing to work through the night to provide their students with a quality education and be there as an emotional support and a listening ear.

This is how I approach my job. I never wanted to be a teacher, I just fell into it but I can honestly say that it is a job I love and that I get so much job satisfaction from. However, it isn't always easy and not all teachers are created equal. I am not without my faults. I can be messy, disorganised, forgetful and I sometimes fall behind on my paperwork. One thing that never suffers in my classroom though is the children's experience of learning. I try my best to give them a quality education on one hand but inject fun into the classroom on the other. Teachers used to be respected and well thought of but somewhere along the line they lost that respect. We are now criticized for not doing a good job, for having too short days and too long holidays. Teaching has become a hated profession where the minority of 'bad' teachers are tainting the reputation of the majority.

I was watching This Morning today where they were discussing the recommendation of changing the working pattern of teachers in England to work 6 days a week, 8am - 8pm (with the children in during these times to make childcare arrangements easier for parents) and to reduce the summer holiday to 4 weeks. Since when was school a babysitting service? If childcare is a problem why aren't the government focussing their energy on making it cheaper and more accessible. As a working mum myself (soon to be anyway) I understand these pressures but I don't feel it's the school responsibility. I wouldn't want him in school for that length of time. I think children need down time, away from school and teachers. They need family time and it is equally important as education. Going abroad or spending time exploring the world outside school is equally educational (Or so parents claim when they want to take their kids out of school for a holiday!). 

In Scotland, we do actually get paid for a 35 hour week (it works out about 7 hours a day) but there are few teachers who work 8 - 3 or 9 -4. If I were to work these hours I would never get anything done! We also have hours over and above this to attend meetings and training thoughout the year. In my first couple of years as a teacher I was in school for 8am and rarely left before 7pm. Now I do what I can until 5.20pm when my school now closes and I take the rest home. Normally working until 8pm. Over the year there will be times when I also work weekends. The 'work' I am doing is marking, preparation, assessment, reporting, planning. If you are doing it right there is no way that it can be done in school time. I spend my school time tidying up, meeting parents, attending school meetings, liaising with support for learning, tracking down resources etc.

The majority of teachers work our arses off so where did it all go wrong? A lot of the parents who I speak to will say to me 'yeah yeah you have a hard job with all your holidays!!' closely followed with 'Yeah but I couldn't do your job!'


  1. Great post Claire - I admire and respect teachers, I think they are hard working. I know how hard it can be trying to entertain and educate just one child, nevermind a whole classroom. Good for you for speaking out xx

  2. Thanks Heather! I don't want everyone thinking we are all the same. Out of
    all the teachers I know there is only a couple of them who aren't really
    that committed to their jobs and don't do a good enough job in my opinion.
    It spoils it for the rest of us.

  3. Claire, I think you are totally right here, well said! Having lived with my mum as a teacher whist growing up I can testify to the extreme effort and hours most teachers put in. And yeah, the holidays may be longer but you have no choice when to take them and it makes travel etc. more expensive. I get pretty annoyed when people comment on this as I think they do not really understand what it is like to be a teacher and the responsibility which come with it.
    Lucy xx

  4. Agree, agree, agree!! The observation regarding down time can be supported by MANY MANY psychological studies. Not least of all Mead and his role play observation and Vtgotsky amongst others, as well as cognitive psychologists who have much empirical experimental evidence that learning is best done in short sharp bursts...a longer day would hardly facilitate this. It wouldn't exactly nurture a very healthy work/life balance in children either, with them being indoctrinated from a young age in to a system which believes working such extended hours is desirable and indeed healthy. I also can't see how this could encourage a learning environment as the resulting effect on the poor teachers would be one of extreme exhaustion and stress and probably a resulting loss in motivation!

    Love Lynz X

  5. Well said Claire. I do not think it is a hated profession - I have great memories of my school days and those teachers who inspired me. It is such an awesome position to be in - to be able to help children realise what their dreams and paths in life will be x


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